RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

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I went to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show on Satrrday. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been on my "London Bucket List" for a few years now, and I can now tick that off my list. The show is a popular event in London's calendar because it gets a lot of press, and the Queen, royal family, and celebrities visit nearly every year. (They visit the day before it is open to the general public.) The show is only on for a few days at the end of May each year and is held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea near Sloane Square. The show gardens are created the weekend before, and it is open to the general public on Tuesday. The final day of the show is on the Saturday when all of the plants are auctioned off at 4:00.

Royal Hospital Chelsea

I got up very early so that I could queue for the show to get in before it got too busy. Having never been before, I read tips online that mentioned seeing the show gardens first as they get busy later on. The night before, I looked at the guide and map and decided on a plan of action for seeing the show gardens. I'm glad that I followed this tip as I scrambled to see the show gardens, which did get busier as the time progressed, but I was able to see all of them. I've heard that some people do not get to see all of them because they can be several people deep later in the day.

Below are my photographs of many of the gardens at the show, including the prize won by each garden. In the prize category, Gold is top place; silver-gilt is second, and silver is third. 

M&G Garden - (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden was inspired by the designer's memory of ancient oak woodlands in Exmoor National Park (England) and includes 'forest' trails, wildflowers, and a pool of water. This garden won the 'Best Construction Award'.

LG Smart Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

There were a couple of gardens that I loved, and this was one of them. This garden advertises smart home technology but also brings it to the garden as well. I loved the pastel colours of the flowers, the minimal interior of the home, and the difference in textures with the furry skins on the back of the chairs. This seems to combine the home and garden together. The purple, white and green colour scheme seems to be popular this year.


Watahan East & West Garden (Show Garden - Silver)

The Watahan East & West Garden is created by Japanese designer Tea Yano, and it combines English and Japanese styles and plants. I liked the reflections in the pool.

St. John Hospice - A Modern Apothecary (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was another one of my favourite gardens. This garden was inspired by doctors and care professionals when asked about improving health and the context of the healing power of plants based on the quote by Socrates "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." Plants that are known for their health benefits are included in the garden as well as a bench where one can sit and take in the aroma of lavender and other plants and watch the small fountain of water. The garden contains red-leaved herbs (Atriplex, Beta and Brassica) which contain anthocyanidins are known to relieve oxidative stress (stresses from toxins). Several of the plants in the garden can also be eaten.

The way plants clear toxins and freshens the air is very important to me. Studies have been shown that certain plants purify the air and get rid of toxins, and this is why house plants are important to remove toxins in plastics, furniture, products that we use, and vehicles. Since moving into a house in October and having more room, I have researched different house plants to buy to purify the air and to remove toxins and fumes from car pollution. Note that a lot of plants can be posionous to animals if eaten (cats are attracted to plants), but they can be placed up high on shelving where the animals cannot access them.



The Chelsea Barracks Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden looks onto the Chelsea Barracks, so the garden was built to enhance the heritage and architecture of the building. Roses are prominent in the garden, and the bronze sculptures reference those who resided here.

Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden will be moved to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (a children's hospital) permanently after the show. It is a centrepiece for families and children to come to gather while the children have their treatment at the hospital. The building is inspired by Japanese architecture. I love the metalwork on the ceiling of the building, which reminds me of leaves and the reflections that this would create to feel outdoors around the foilage. White and pastel purple/blue flowers also feature in this garden.





Antithesis of Sarcophagi (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This granite cube has writing on one side and looks just like a solid cube of rock. However, there is a surprise inside. Visitors walk around the cube and discover small holes in the stone to look through. Inside the cube is a beautiful garden. This unique garden won the 'Best in Show' in the Fresh Garden category.


The 5000 Poppies Project

For Rememberance Day in Australia, 5000 poppies were knitted. It took three years to create the poppies, and many have been donated. This reminds me of the famous Poppies at the Tower exhibition in 2014. This is one of the most photographed pieces of the Flower Show this year, and it has received a lot of press.


Grand Mirror Form

This sculpture was inspired by folding paper several times to come up with different shapes and angular forms. 

The Husqvarna Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This Australian garden offers reflection and relaxation. The sunken lawn areas and layered hedges make the garden feel more private. The garden uses a lot of deep purple/pink/red shades of flowers along with sage-green leaves and red ferns.



Vestra Wealth's Garden of Mindful Living (Show Garden - Gold)

This is a modern garden for a busy client inspired by the Far East and yoga. It combines views of the city with a garden space to enhance life's balance.

Brewin Dolphin Garden - Forever Freefolk (Show Garden - Silver)

The message of this garden encourages people to think about natural resources and threats of the environment. This garden contains many brightly-coloured flowers and brightly-coloured gravel instead of following a limited colour scheme.




The Telegraph Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden won 'Best in Show' this year, and it is inspired by the landscape with the slabs of bronze representing mountains. 


Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

Mathematical patterns help to describe beauty and is commonly used in design, art, and music for composition. 


Royal Bank of Canada Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden was inspired by a recent garden that the designer designed for the royal garden in Jordan. It contains scultped basalt pyramids and water reflections. The primary theme is the importance of water. The plants used are what can be found in Jordan and what suits the climate there.


L'Occitane Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

The brand is celebrating 40 years of its beauty and skincare products. The garden is inspired by its home in Provence, France and is made to look like the countryside of this area with lavender, cornflowers, poppies, and other flowers and plants found in this area.

Hartley Botanic Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden has a glass house sitting on the water. The glass house contains carniverous plants, but the outside is decorated with pastel plants.

Cloudy Bay Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden is simple, and the wooden frame suggests that there are no boundaries. 


God's Own Country - a Garden for Yorkshire (Show Garden - Silver)

This garden celebrates Yorkshire and its important gardens and heritage sites, including Yorkminster. The stained glass is a replica of Yorkminster, and it was created using methods from the 1400s. The garden contains flowers of multiple colours. Although I loved this garden and its multiple colours, I think it would have done better to plant flowers that complement the stained glass windows as I feel that they distract from it. There is a little too much going on. 

This garden won the BBC and RHS People's Choice award. 



Oh, and I noticed that these brown irises were in quite a few of the gardens on display. I've never seen a colour like this before.

The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was a very beautiful garden to photograph with a variety of beautiful flowers and hedges. It was inspired by the British eccentric with mechanisms engineered and inspired by the likes of the creations in Wallace and Gromit and others. This is also a memorable garden because the bay trees twirled, the garden boxes on the shed moved, and the roof on the shed lifted. Other hedges spun or lowered. 










The Modern Slavery Garden (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This garden also won the People's Choice award. It symbolises the hope for the end of slavery, but the bad still happens behind closed doors. The doors symbolise a way to open to freedoms.


Imperial Garden - Revive (Fresh Garden - Silver)

This garden is designed by a Ukranian designer and had lace-like elements that join the different elements together. It tries to redefine the world by removing politics in the world to create a harmony.

Pro Corda Trust - A Suffolk Retreat (Artisan Garden - Silver)

I loved this little garden, which contains a fountain, a summer house, and green and pale purple flowers. The garden is constructed as a retreat for young people with educational needs so that they could engage and create.


Senri-Sentei Garage Garden (Artisan Garden - Gold)

This garden is for a car enthusiast and complements the car as well as provides a relaxing garden space.


After visiting the show gardens, we went into the Great Pavilion. Inside are exhibitors and plant sellers as well as community/education exhibits. One of the displays featured the Queen's 90th birthday. We actually saw a few pay tribute to the Queen, and the show had an area with photographs over the ages.



The Olympics also played a part in a large and colourful exhibition. Around this exhibit were several microscopes where we could see work by Willard Wigan. He creates artwork that fits inside an eye of a needle, which is barely visible with the naked eye. Looking through the microscope allowed the pieces to be seen an admired. I was wowed with this. Painting and constructing these tiny artworks was impressive. My favourites were the Olympic torch and Olympic symbol (how did he do this?) and the four seasons with the changing trees.


Exhibitors tend to specialise in one plant area. There was an exhibit of orchids, roses, cacti, lillies, rhododendrons, peonies, carniverous plants, tulips, daffodils, irises, and other plants.


A special exhibition to the Queen was also created with multiple colours. The other side of the artwork contains a mock 'stand' with buckets of flowers similar to what may be discovered at a flower market. This celebrates New Covent Garden flower market.


A church frame was also created with beautiful pastel pink/purple, cream, and orange flowers.


I liked the colours of the beach huts with the different colours of the plants.


Before we wandered around the vendors, we bought a half bottle of champagne. The area was getting much busier, and we had seen nearly everything so decided to call it a day instead of waiting around for the auction. I did try to reserve a couple of plants in the Great Pavilion, but they were spoken for. This always happens to me, and I must have good taste.


My tips for visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are to arrive early to beat the majority of the crowds and to see the show gardens before they get too busy. Get the guide beforehand and decide which route you want to take. Also, always have your guide with you and watch it carefully; I had someone walk off with mine. The sellers that sell the guides told me that people just try to take them for free. They are £10.00 a pop at the time of writing this, so I was down £10.00 when someone took mine. Also, the queues for the toilets can be very long, particularly around lunch time, so plan ahead if you need to go.

Food and drink can be purchased on site, but it is very expensive and the food that I had was not good quality. I went to Thames View for an early lunch at about 11:30 to avoid the crowds, and the service was also appalling. It was so appalling that different people in the queues around me (I had to go to two queues to get two different items) were joking about how bad it was and how some staff just stood around, would not make eye contact, and would ignore serving. Picnics can be brought, and there is ample space on the grass inside to eat for a fraction of the cost; you could even sit near the bandstand and listen to live music while eating.

If visiting on the Saturday, some of the exhibitors do reserve plants for the big sell off. Reserving seems to be quite popular, and if you really want something specific, it is the way to go. However, the best bargains are probably made when turning up for the auctions instead of making a reservation for something where the price is determined by the exhibitor.

If you have any additional tips, include them in the comments below.

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